Low Vision Month: offering services and focusing on research to help with vision loss
By Lauren Ward.
February is Low Vision Month, a month that brings awareness to any incurable visual impairment that can negatively impact everyday life and make regular activities difficult to do. This is why many of the top priorities at the School of Optometry and Vision Science (UWOVS) include providing services for patients with low vision and delving into research on conditions that lead to vision loss.
Visual impairment leading to low vision can be devastating. Low vision cannot be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medicine and surgery. When it comes low vision, the use of vision assessments, vision aids, and counselling can help improve quality of life and maximize independence for those who are impaired.
The George and Judy Woo Centre for Sight Enhancement Low Vision Clinic is one such area where the School provides a comprehensive range of vision rehabilitation services. The Low Vision Clinic offers rehabilitation through assessments and specialty visual aids such as closed-circuit televisions, computer adaptations, and tools for daily living. Not only that, but the clinic also aids in accessing government programs and services and connecting you with groups serving the low vision population.
“There is hope for anyone confronted with an incurable eye condition. Implementing different tools and strategies really can allow you to continue doing the activities that you would like to do,” says Dr. Tammy Labreche, director of the George and Judy Woo Centre for Sight Enhancement.
Conditions that cause vision loss and treatments are one of the main focuses of research within UWOVS. One such treatment being looked at for macular degeneration is making great strides. This would be transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation. Using direct electrical currents to stimulate the visual cortex, tDCS helps the brain use information it receives from the eye as efficiently as possible.
As Andrew Silva, postdoctoral fellow here in UWOVS stated in Waterloo News, “This finding is exciting because this is the first study to demonstrate brain stimulation in patients with macular degeneration had a positive impact on an important real-world skill like reading.”
Low vision does not allow you to see well enough, making it difficult to do regular activities such as reading, shopping, driving, or cooking. There are a variety of types of low vision with the most common types being:
- Central vision loss (where you are unable to see in the center of your vision)
- Peripheral vision loss (where you are unable to see out of the corners of your eyes)
- Night blindness (where you are unable to see in low light)
- Blurry or hazy vision
When it comes to low vision, it is dependent on the disease or condition that caused it. The usual suspects causing low vision include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
If you or a loved on is suffering from low vision, you can connect and make an appointment with our Low Vision Clinic team.
Wetlands under threat
Thursday, February 2 marks World Wetlands Day, an international government agreement acknowledging the importance of wetlands and their ecological role in conserving our ecosystems.
“Wetlands are these climate change superheroes,” says Dr. Rebecca Rooney, a wetland ecologist and professor in the Department of Biology. “Wetlands are a portfolio of ecosystem services: including flood prevention, breaking down pesticides, storing large amounts of carbon, and provide habitat for more than 32 per cent of Ontario species at risk who rely on these wetlands to mitigate climate change.”
Canada is home to 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands. But according to Rooney, Canada has lost more than 60 per cent of our wetlands over the years. In agricultural areas, wetlands have been drained to make space for farming. While in urban and suburban areas, Canada has lost the majority of its wetlands due to them being drained for housing development.
Stormwater ponds are engineered solutions created to effectively replace wetlands across Ontario. However, these ponds only address some of the problems including flood prevention, but they need to provide the full portfolio of ecosystem services that wetlands provide.
The impact of Bill 23 on wetlands in Ontario
The More Homes Built Faster Act, formerly known as Bill 23, aims to address the housing crisis in Ontario through a series of changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, the Planning Act, the Municipal Act and other legislation that governs housing developments and nature conservation in the province.
This bill was passed on November 28, 2022. Associated with Bill 23 were 15 additional proposals on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, including changes to the boundaries of the Greenbelt, which rendered 15 parcels of land totalling 7,400 acres available to housing developments. The proposals posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario also included changes to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System, which is the instrument the provinces uses to determine whether a wetland gets classified as provincially significant.
“One of those proposals addresses the Ontario wetland evaluation system, where all wetlands in Ontario get assessed to determine if they are provincially significant,” says Rooney.
“If the wetland is provincially significant, then they are protected from being developed on. If they are not provincially significant, then they may be subject to development. Unfortunately, the changes that are being proposed to the Ontario wetland evaluation system will dramatically undermine its efficacy and endanger wetlands across Ontario," says Rooney.
Rooney explains how the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry currently provides training for those who manage the Ontario wetland evaluation system. But the proposed changes will transfer the responsibility to all municipalities, who may need more proper resources and funding to properly maintain the Ontario wetland evaluation system and in turn, little pockets of wetlands will be evaluated independently.
“There is a huge amount of scientific evidence that connects these pockets of wetlands into a whole integrated network,” says Rooney. “If you start chipping away at the wetlands and you destroy one piece of it, the whole network is going to suffer under the current proposals.”
Rooney encourages people to act by learning more about the Act and its impact on Canada’s wetlands. While housing continues to be a crisis in Ontario, Rooney emphasizes other different ways we can approach housing developments with more affordable and sustainable solutions so we can protect our wetlands and their crucial role in conserving our ecosystems.
CEE hosts Black History Month panel discussion
A message from Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE).
This February, Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) will reflect upon, celebrate and dedicate time to the Black experience in the workplace. The unit is hosting the ‘Elevating Black Excellence in the Workplace’ panel discussion on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. The virtual event will explore:
- Real stories about barriers and opportunities for the future;
- Tactics employers are using to highlight, create opportunities, and foster belonging for Black talent; and
- Ways we can better future-proof Black co-op students.
Speakers include Norah McRae, Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education; Christopher Taylor, Associate Vice-President, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism; Aileen Agada, BeBlended founder; Trevor Charles, Professor and Director, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research and Shauna-Kay Jones, Motify founder. Register today for this free virtual event.
Velocity appoints Director of Incubator and Director of Health
A message from Velocity.
Velocity welcomes Director of Velocity Incubator Sarrah Lal and Director of Velocity Health Moazam Khan to its leadership team as it continues to evolve to support the next generation of high-impact entrepreneurs.
Cultivating persistently enterprising people for real-world impact
Before Velocity, Sarrah Lal spent five years as a faculty member at McMaster University’s medical school. There she used highly collaborative learner-centered approaches to create case-based training experiences for entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and leadership education, working with over 150 students per year across three programs.
With a background in science, biomedical engineering, law, and business, over her career she has nurtured her own entrepreneurial mindset through being “out in the wild”: working directly with founders and later co-founding a health start-up in breath-based diagnostics.
As Director of the Velocity Incubator, Lal will leverage her insights into entrepreneur and organizational development to clarify and grow Velocity’s impact on the Canadian startup ecosystem.
“Make no mistake, Velocity is world-class,” Lal said. “With that comes a responsibility to always keep moving the needle on what it means to accelerate the progress of entrepreneurs. And yes, it also means raising the standard on what we mean by diversity and inclusion in the entrepreneurship community.”
First on her list is to increase the entrepreneurship community’s representation of female-identifying and non-binary, 2SLGBTQ+, and culturally diverse founders. A close second is ensuring that the Velocity community has access to world-class training, resources, and connections from the time they apply to Velocity to when they launch and join the illustrious community of Velocity Alumni.
“We are interested in working with all persistently enterprising people who have the ambition, insights, and drive to create impactful ventures,” she added. “Likewise, we are also a group of persistently enterprising people developing leading approaches to maximize start-up survival rates and successes. If that sounds a bit like you, we invite you to apply to join our community.”
Building a platform to close the innovation to commercialization gap
With deep roots in innovation ecosystems across the globe, Moazam Khan (BSc. ‘16, MBET ‘17) joined Velocity staff as business adviser to Velocity’s portfolio of health tech startups prior to filling the Director of Velocity Health role.
Khan is a serial entrepreneur with a background in medical science, business and technology and has experience in launching and scaling companies, including Velocity Alumni Curiato.
Khan said health tech startups are confronted with obstacles different from their counterparts in other fields of research and development, creating a huge gap between innovation and commercialization.
“This is a big problem in Canada,” Khan said. “Health tech startup validation comes from clinical trials and pilots which is a big challenge because early-stage founders don’t have the necessary funding to conduct trials but if they don’t have the validation, they can’t raise venture capital funding.”
Khan’s vision is to break through this catch-22 by developing a platform for clinical trial support and key technical and funding advisers, including hospitals, entrepreneurial physicians, Velocity alumni and investors.
“We are setting our eyes on the global stage to foster one of the world’s largest health tech commercialization platforms,” Khan said. “I returned to Velocity to help scale and grow the next generation of health tech. This region is special with its abundance of health innovation and through this network, health tech startups can work on the next big idea and scale.”
Since launching in 2008, Velocity companies have raised over $4.3B USD in venture capital and have a collective enterprise value of over $26B USD. The list of full-time Velocity companies will soar from 70 to over 100 when Velocity operations move to the Innovation Arena facility in late 2023.
Takin' it to the streets and other notable notes
The Dana Porter Library will be hosting Takin’ It To The Streets: La Cartonera Exhibit this month. "Professor Tara Cooper’s Fine Arts 204 class have created their own la cartonera artist books, which will be on display in the Dana Porter Library lobby until February 13," says a note from the Library. "Join us in the Dana Porter Library lobby on February 2 from 2:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate the opening of the exhibit and try your hand at creating your own artist's book!"
The exhibit runs from February 2 to February 13.
The Registrar's Office reports that the 2023-2024 Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar is now available online. Previous Undergraduate Calendars are available in the List of Undergraduate Studies Archived Calendars section.
Students are also being invited to select their 2023 spring term courses, as the course selection period opened on January 30 and will run until Tuesday, February 7 at 11:59 p.m.